Food: US vs UK — American Scones

by Brenda W. Clough

usuk I don’t know when scones became popular in the US, but it has been within my lifetime — I do not believe I saw them when I was a girl. For the scone as it is in American parlance, we need go nowhere else than the ubiquitous Starbucks, and view their extremely popular Petite vanilla scone. Look at the frosting on this thing! And click on the link to see the massive calorie count and sugar load, on a pastry item less than two inches across. Their regular size scones are more than four inches across. I have eaten the Petite Vanilla Scone and can tell you now it is far too sweet, so sugary any perfume of vanilla is lost. And the cloak of frosting impacts crispness in a deplorable way.

Vanilla sconeThis is the kind of thing you eat with a large cup of unsugared coffee. You cannot dip it, you cannot butter it. They do not look at all like Phyl’s product, do they, Phyl? A brief Google search turns up a woman who IMO is crazy (honey, with this kind of energy and devotion you could cure cancer! You could write a space trilogy! You could run for Congress!) because she has reverse-engineered this confection, here. Her startling addition is vanilla pudding mix. Sometimes I despair of America, I really do. But note that the scone basics are there as well: butter, egg, sugar, flour, and a riser. Some things are classic. Just not this one.

Other American scones have additions like chocolate chips (a favorite, I do confess, but I would eat the Sunday Post if only it had semi-sweet chocolate chips in it), orange flavoring and dried cranberries (remember Americans put cranberries into all kinds of inappropriate things) and blueberries (also a national favorite). If it were not for the Petite Vanilla Scone (one of Starbucks’ most popular items, God knows why) I would have said that Americans consistently make a British baked item larger. Because we like large things, especially to eat. Am I correct, oh you persons of British extraction, in saying that all these additions (slatherings of frosting, cranberries, chocolate chips) are entirely alien to the British scone?





Food: US vs UK — American Scones — 21 Comments

  1. You are correct. Scones contain flour, milk (or buttermilk), baking powder and salt. They may optionally contain a little sugar (if intended to be eaten with jam and cream) or cheese. No frosting, no fruit and no chocolate.

    But the real question is: do you pronounce them to rhyme with “gone” or with “lone”? (The place called Scone is of course pronounced to rhyme with “Moon”.)

  2. There are a few acceptable (to some people but not to my husband) variations – a cheese scone, to be eaten with a bowl of soup, and a fruit scone, which has mixed dried fruit in it and is better buttered rather than given the proper jam & clotted cream treatment. But definitely no frosting or chocolate.

  3. I got my recipe for scones in the food section of the LA Times newspaper in 1969 and it is like a American baking powder biscuit, although a good deal sweeter–I find if I use just a little of the half cup of sugar indicated in the recipe that I can use a tart jam (my favorite is elderberry) with no problems to universal acclaim. And oddly enough, in my circle of friends, smaller is better. Is it all in the name? Maybe the Starbucks version is just the commercial-hype version regardless of the name (like what they call muffins are actually cupcakes, and just sound healthier and therefore more marketable). After all, there are stores here where (to my astonishment) they market stuff like applesauce and walnuts as being ‘gluten-free’!

  4. Sorry–I forgot to say that I am American and not even of European extraction, so I probably shouldn’t even be commenting. (But I couldn’t resist, because scones have been my reason to have been invited anywhere for forty years now, and I got carried away.) *cringe*

  5. In Starbucks they call them scones, to rhyme with lone, so I will decree this to be the American pronunciation. We are as we are. This is a country that has a town Versailles, pronounced ver-SAY-ulls, so just live with it.

    At this point, with the scone covered with frosting, it is verging over onto cookie territory. I may develop a new food theory, that all American foods eventually approach either cookie or pizza, the way there is an event horizon around black holes.

  6. What? In my life scones aren’t in the least sugary or sweet — they’re quick breads with lovely knobs all over them. For sweet, if one is so inclined, one goes to jam, though probably one prefers some kind of dairy spreadable or drippable?

    My goodness what one remains ignorant of regarding U.S.ian life when one eschews places like Starbux all one’s life, despite there being one on every corner.

    There is a regional bakery company that distributes around NYC and Long Island that has, despite the industrial level of production, makes quite lovely scones. But they don’t make them all the time or very many of them, as evidently the old school regional idea of scone has fallen to the S’bux wayside. Sigh.

  7. When I was in Britain for 6 months on a college study program, the Scots pronounce it scohn–very soft o. They are soft and light and sit like a feather in your tummy. The English call them scone–as in stone, and sits like same in the stomach. Sorry Chaz.

    I have a recipe that calls for the addition of raisins or other dried fruit. But never, ever, ever, frosting.

    I first ran into scones at the state and county fair in Oregon. Fisher Mills sold them, warm and fresh with butter and raspberry jam. They also sold boxes of the mix. don’t know if they are still around or not. I haven’t looked for the mix and I haven’t been to the fair in ever so long.

  8. I am a sucker for sweets and pastry, and so try to avoid eating these things. I always fail, but I have to try, otherwise I’ll be the size of a blimp.

  9. I have a constant argument over things like this with hubby who is American. To me a scone is nothing like what he understands by the word. He calls real scones biscuits, and he calls biscuits cookies. He thinks of crisps as chips and of chips as fries. I don’t know. Ordering things in food emporia in America are fraught for those of us who knw those things from a British cullinary background.

  10. My house has had two wonderful bakers who made scones live here at various times. The scones they made were a slightly sweet biscuit, nothing like the cloyingly sweet ones that you find at nearly every commercial bakery, and were light and fluffy. Both liked to put currants in them, which here in the US actually means miniature raisins; true currants are rarely available here.

  11. Hmm. We may need to have this discussion. Phyl’s scone recipe is not what I, an American, would call a biscuit. For one thing, biscuits do not call for eggs. I do know that cookies in the US are biscuits in Britain. But what are the biscuits in the US, when they go to Britain? Never say they are muffins. If only we could complete a neat tail-chasing circle like that!

  12. If it’s all in a name, then perhaps admitting that American scones aren’t actual scones, just as American football isn’t the same thing as football everywhere else. Back when I ate such things (but no longer do because of blood sugar reasons), I rather liked those knobby biscuits with fruit and sugar glaze, just as I liked the real scones I had during my visits to Scotland. Different, but tasty all the same. My main complaint is that it’s so hard to find clotted cream around here.

      • Making clotted cream isn’t difficult – IF you can find the right cream. Cream that has been homogenized and/or had emulsifiers added will not clot properly, and that includes most of the mass market brands sold in the US. Cream sold by small local dairies or in health food stores is more likely to be appropriate but you still need to check the label.

  13. Oh, Lord, yes! I’m the sort who asked for a meat grinder for Christmas so I could make hamburger and sausage without pink slime and gristle. I would so love to make clotted cream.